Cherokee Nation Businesses’ Official Describes Legal Challenges Faced by Pope County Casino Project as Last-Minute Moves

The American conglomerate holding company Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) has been trying to establish a casino venue in the state of Arkansas for almost half a decade. At a time when the Native American tribe based in Oklahoma approaches the full authorization of its Pope County casino from the competent state authorities, the economic arm of the tribe has noted that the remaining legal challenges before it are nothing more than some last-minute unsuccessful movements against the company.

Last week, Chuck Garrett, the CEO of the Cherokee Nation Businesses appeared before the Council of the Native American tribe to provide an update on the business operations of the conglomerate. At the time, Mr. Garrett shared that the decision of Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston to reject a state-wide referendum earlier in August was simply the last straw. The move sought to eliminate Pope County as a destination to host the planned casino project as part of a rival Native American tribe’s efforts to keep the Cherokee tribe out of the state of Arkansas.

Back in 2018, Arkansas voters supported a gaming referendum that allowed the establishment of a single casino resort in four counties across the state – Jefferson, Pope, Garland, and Crittenden. The ballot campaign was largely supported by the Cherokee tribe. After the vote guaranteed the voters’ support for the initiative, former racinos in the counties of Garland and Crittenden were allowed to transition into full-scale casinos offering table games, slot machines, and sports betting services. As for the counties of Jefferson and Pope, they received the opportunity to see two new commercial casino establishments fully rise from scratch.

Jefferson County joined forces with the Oklahoma-based Quapaw Nation. On the other hand, the officials of Pope County had initially agreed to grant the Cherokee tribe a gaming opportunity but, unfortunately, legal chaos that followed stalled the plans of Cherokee Nation Businesses to establish a $225-million casino resort in Russellville called Legends Resort & Casino.

CNB’s Arkansas Casino Project Faces Multiple Legal Challenges on the Way

The CEO of the tribal company told the tribal council that the mission of Cherokee Nation Businesses to open a casino in the state of Arkansas has been an endurance test for the tribe. He noted that the combat to make sure this project comes to life has been continuing for four years and has been pretty much testing the tribe’s endurance.

As CasinoGamesPro previously revealed, a series of events delayed the plans of Cherokee Nation Businesses.

First, the state’s regulatory body – the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) – found that one of its members has been biased in reviewing two casino proposals for the Pope County license. Commissioner Butch Rice grated the CNB project a 29/100 score while scoring the project of the company’s opponents, Gulfside Casino Partnership, a 100/100. The drastic difference in the two scores pretty much boosted the outcome of the competition in Gulfside’s favor. After months of legal action, the Arkansas Racing Commission eventually determined that it was Cherokee Nation Businesses that was the rightful winner in the competition for the Pope County casino license.

On the other hand, the gaming law of the state of Arkansas required applications for a casino license to be approved by the county’s judge in order to qualify. The CNB project was backed by the current Pope County Judge Ben Cross, unlike the company’s competitor Gulfside that only got a letter of support from the previous County judge.

Eventually, the state’s Supreme Court agreed to take up the matter and in November 2021 ruled in favor of Cherokee Nation Businesses and its casino project.